Monday, March 04, 2024 |
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New legislation was introduced at the congressional level this week to bolster the Fighting Inhumane Gambling and High Risk Trafficking, or FIGHT Act, designed to crack down on illegal cockfighting.
Introduced by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, the bill aims to amend the Animal Welfare Act by banning simulcasts of and gambling on animal fighting, halting the shipping of roosters through U.S. mail, and allowing for forfeiture of property assets used in animal fighting crimes, along with other adjustments.
“Animal fighting is cruel, illegal and unacceptable,” said Booker in a statement. “It’s time we take stronger action to stop these heinous abuses against animals and protect them from being exploited for entertainment and profit.”
Last year, hundreds attended a cockfight in Honokaa, resulting in the death of 21 chickens and one arrest, with officers seizing almost $8,000 in cash for forfeiture.
Then in March of this year, police broke up another cockfight in Kealakekua, where an estimated 800 people were in attendance.
Police recovered 14 live chickens, cockfighting paraphernalia, four dead chickens, three unregistered loaded pistols, ammunition and a loaded .22 caliber long rifle.
“As we arrived on scene, participants were already fleeing,” Area II Vice Lt. Ed Buyten told West Hawaii Today in March, adding there were no injuries.
Buyten said it took nearly three hours to get all of the cars off of the South Kona property, including rental cars, which indicated participants came from other islands.
And last month, there was a shooting at a cockfight on Oahu, where two people were killed and three others injured. Two suspects, including a 16-year-old boy, turned themselves in.
“People that are attendees are local, locally based, and have been doing it for generations,” former Maui police chief Gary Yabuta told the Associated Press. “A saying among chicken fighters is, ‘It’s in my blood.’”
While cockfighting has been illegal in Hawaii since 1884, Big Island police have conducted 10 raids on cockfights since September of 2018, according to reporting from Civil Beat.
Hawaii is just one of eight states that considers cockfighting a misdemeanor act of animal cruelty instead of a felony.
“Allowing wagering on animal fighting is another tragic example of illegal actors blatantly ignoring the law,” Alex Costello, vice president of government affairs at the American Gaming Association, said in a press release. “We must empower law enforcement to go after nefarious illegal operators, which is why the AGA is proud to support these key amendments to the Animal Welfare Act.”
Another key aspect of the bill relates to public health concerns stemming from cockfighting.
Because of the close handling of birds that become bloody and severely injured at fights, the likelihood of disease transmission from birds to people substantially increases.
“Animal movements by people are the most important risk factor for spread of domestic animal infectious diseases,” Dr. Jim Keen, a former 20-year infectious disease specialist with the USDA, said in a press release. “If cockfighting birds are infected, they have the potential to expand the geography and duration of viral outbreaks throughout the U.S. and the world.”
The bill, House Resolution 2742, has been referred to the House Agriculture and House Oversight and Accountability committees.
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